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16th May 2022

Eamon McGee reveals what Rory Gallagher was like under Jim McGuinness

Lee Costello

“It’s a different ball game when you’re the main man.”

With his very visible style of play and style of management so clearly implemented on this Derry team, it’s hard to imagine Rory Gallagher as anything other than the head coach.

The Oakleaf manager has now lead three separate counties to Ulster finals, including Donegal and his native Fermanagh.

However, before he was ever the main man at the helm, Gallagher learned a fair bit of his trade as Donegal’s assistant manager under Jim McGuinness.

The two had a formidable partnership which saw Donegal win two Ulster titles and an All-Ireland back in 2012.

Unfortunately it didn’t end on good terms between the two, but there’s no escaping that the role as assistant put Gallagher in good stead for his own managerial career.

Speaking on the GAA Hour, Darran O’Sullivan asks Eamon McGee, who played under Gallagher as both assistant manager, and head manager, what he was like as a number two.

I’m curious to know that, actually Eamon, because obviously you were in the dressing room with him – how he was in the dressing room, when he wasn’t the top man? 

“He was under Jim, and Jim was obviously the main man, and was it a case of  – he sat back – or was he as animated, and energetic around the place, or would he be someone who would have got you going before games?

“Obviously it’s a different ball game when you’re the main man.”

“Naw, it was… Jim was obviously the main man, so he was really vocal and he was leading the thing, but Rory was nearly the perfect foil to him,” replied McGee. 

“He came in, and added his bits and pieces, so if you’re giving a percentage – Rory would have been 40%.

“I always say that the key to that success in that Donegal thing was, you had Jim, you had Rory, and you had Michael Murphy, the three of them driving the whole thing.

Rory, and I think that’s the big thing – he’s learning – because I don’t think he was at it when he came in with Donegal. 

“Now we all went for Rory, and wanted Rory Gallagher to be the manager, but he just needed to go a wee bit more, and he seems to be at that point now, where he’s ready to be an inter-county manager, and as Barry says, he’s learned along the way.”

Former Dublin star Barry Cahill was also in studio, and actually played with Gallagher during his time at St Brigids.

The All-Ireland winner believes that his former teammate took the Derry job at the perfect time to build them back up.

They were on a low eb, you would like to think they could only go one direction in terms of getting better, but he seems to have galvanised the group, and there’s now a sense that you want to be a Derry inter-county player. 

“Which probably wasn’t the case for a number of years, where guys were like, ‘okay I’m just going to focus on the club and still have a social life,’ or whatever that might be.

“Now guys are willing to commit to nine/ten months, which is required to be a serious inter-county footballer, and I think guys have fed off Rory in that sense, and you know, he’s encouraged that buy-in amongst the group as well.”

Listen to the full discussion on the GAA Hour now!